U.S. needs to get house in order
When the Arab “spring” spread from Tunis to Egypt in 2011, there was a sense of triumphalism among interventions of all types – Liberal or Conservatives. Suddenly the indispensable nation had done it again impairing and importing democratic values to areas that knew them not.
For George W. Bush there appeared to be vindication, for Hillary Clinton a success of a policy. The neo-conservative approach had seemingly won a hard but satisfactory triumph. The usual examples were trotted out afresh, purple stains on the hands of the newly enfranchised during elections and the toppling of tyrants. Hosni Mubarak was indicted, Muammar Khadafi dead and the overthrow of Syria’s leader a matter of time.
But the leaves are off the trees of the so-called Arab Spring. Libya is heading the way Somalia, Egypt is on the verge of a Civil War and Bashar-al-Assad is still very much in power. Iraq and Afghanistan remain symbols of nation-building gone bad. Billions squandered and thousands dead to very little purpose. For the United States, the founders of the desultory feast still push for more, convinced that their idea to plant American democracy were still valid regardless of the mounting evidence against such a notion.
Although these presidents often point the finger at Tea Parties or Left-leaning groups, labeling both too ideological, the national security crew proved to be the most rigid ideologies of them all. Facts and evidence dissuade them not-they are right and all the others are wrong.
Groups such as the Council on Foreign Relations lambaste the “new isolationism” as the product of short-sighted thinking. American exceptionalism is embraced with a child-like faith. Their knowledge of the Middle East is always a work in process on which they are willing to gamble all.
Moreover, they are inconsistent, supporting the authoritarian states of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia-a nation not particularly noted for its liberal attitudes. Elections are seen as responsible if someone we like wins them. The American press covers the overthrow of Morsi, but not the counter revolt. To do so would go against the script. As with Iraq, we did not know the players and this made for mistake after mistake. But persistence was the watchword and ill-fated surges, deals with shady sheiks were put in place rather than to face the facts that interventionism was ill advised in 2003. Again history repeated itself, as one philosopher put it “first as tragedy and the second as farce”.
Evidence abounds of the folly of this regional project. Israel, no friend of Assad, was reluctant to intervene in Syria, because they found the Islamic alternative less satisfying. Egypt’s elected government supported the Syrian revolt with gusto; the military regime does not. Even Turkey’s moderate Islamic government faced riots when it tried to repress secular groups. Again all politics has its origins locally, and once more, the new missionary diplomatists fail to grasp that reality.
Yet they push and push. At a time when the United States needs to place its own house in order, cries for throwing more good money after bad increase. If the US persists, then its legacy or its political principal will be the last casualty.